What Year Was The Smallpox Vaccine Invented – The milkmaid supposedly inspired by smallpox vaccines was a myth: goats and soda As the story has it, a young Edward Jenner heard a milkmaid say he had cowpox, so he could not get measles. And so his idea for a vaccine was born. Now a researcher has confirmed the story.
As the story goes, a young Edward Jenner heard a milkmaid brag that cowpox had made her immune to smallpox. And years later, as a doctor, he extracted a substance from a cowpox blister on a milkmaid’s arm to vaccinate a young subject (see in the photo above). The researcher is now evaluating the truth of the stories about the milkers. The New York Academy of Medicine Library (nyamcenterforhistory.org) hides the title
What Year Was The Smallpox Vaccine Invented
As the story goes, a young Edward Jenner heard a milkmaid brag that cowpox had made her immune to smallpox. And years later, as a doctor, he extracted a substance from a cowpox blister on a milkmaid’s arm to vaccinate a young subject (see in the photo above). The researcher is now evaluating the truth of the stories about the milkers.
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Once upon a time, long ago, there was a beautiful dairy. Her face was flawless, peaches and cream skin, a smile full of confidence as she boasted, “I’ll never have chicken pox because I’ve had cow pox. I’ll never have an ugly face with chicken pox.”
A 13-year-old orphan heard a milkmaid brag about her virginity – at least that’s how the story goes. The boy was Edward Jenner, an apprentice of the village surgeon. Jenner’s name would one day be known for the development of the first vaccine in the world, which would eventually rid the country of the scourge of smallpox. And the story of his childhood inspiration for the development of vaccines is a classic in the history of medicine, told in a biography from 1837 and repeated endlessly over the years.
Jenner grew up and became a doctor in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England. According to a historical report published in 2005 in Baylor University Medical Proceedings, he vaccinated a child named James Phipps in 1796 with pus taken from a cowpox pustule. He tested a theory he claimed he developed in his head after a milkmaid noticed that exposure to the relatively mild form of smallpox would protect people from the much more deadly form of smallpox. And it worked. The Phipps boy proved immune when exposed to smallpox after the cow vaccination, as did several other Jenner children, including her 11-month-old son.
Jenner’s work went down in history as the first scientific attempt to control an infectious disease by vaccination. Almost two centuries later, on May 8, 1980, the World Health Organization declared the world smallpox-free.
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But now Dr. Arthur Boylston has debunked the milkmaid story in a commentary in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine:
“I expect fire and brimstone,” laughs Boylston, emeritus professor of pathology at the University of Leeds and senior lecturer at the University of Oxford. – Everyone loves the story of the dairy.
“I guess you could say it’s legendary, passed down from generation to generation,” says Dr. Joel Breman, scientist emeritus at the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center. And Mary Fissell, a professor in the history of Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, agrees. “The story of the dairy is a very common story. I probably repeated it myself in my undergraduate lecture,” he says.
To find out what really happened, Boylston, whose research interests include the history of smallpox vaccinations, pored over letters, medical notes and research papers from around the 1720s. He published a book about it, Defying Providence: Smallpox and the Forgotten Medical Revolution of the 18th Century. According to him, the doctors at that time tried to prevent smallpox with a process called varialation, where liquid was taken directly from the smallpox wounds of sick people and written on the skin of healthy people. “There are records of women vaccinating their own children with measles,” Boylston says. “People have a mild case of smallpox, but then they’re immune.”
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They were immune, that is if they survived. Using the actual smallpox virus to cause disease in healthy people is risky. If people contracted smallpox during an epidemic naturally, the chance of dying from the disease was 1 in 5 or 6. When they contracted smallpox after vaccination, they usually got a mild form of the disease, and the risk of dying dropped to about 1 in. 50, says Boylston. Whether they contracted the disease naturally or intentionally with the smallpox virus, survivors are immune for the rest of their lives. Historical records show that many people were willing to risk exposing themselves – even their children – to smallpox.
But then Jenner showed that people could become immune to smallpox by vaccination against cowpox. It was safer because cowpox rarely kills.
Because there is another story, supported by the letters, diaries and research notes that Boylston found during his research. It tells the story of a country doctor named John Fewster, whose story takes place in 1768, just at the same time as the young Jenner hears the milkmaid’s speculation about his virginity. Like other doctors of the time, Fewster inoculated people with the smallpox virus and provided them with bed, food and medical care in a large house that he had set up for this purpose. They stayed until the usual mild illness passed. He looked after a group of farmers in Thornbury, near where the young Jenner studied. Some of the farmer’s farmers, who were proven to have been exposed to smallpox, were already immune to the disease. Feuster could tell because they did not respond to the vaccine. “Typically, people would get a big sore on the arm and very mild cases of smallpox. If they already had smallpox, they wouldn’t react,” Boylston says.
But there was something unusual about the farmers who were vaccinated but did not develop the typical ulcer: they claimed that they had never had measles. Then, according to a letter written by Feuster, a farmer said, “I’ve had a bad case of cowpox lately, if that’s likely.” Fester continued to ask. He found that all the farmers who did not react to smallpox had never had smallpox, but had previously had smallpox. His conclusion: They were immune to smallpox after being exposed to cowpox.
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Feuster’s study was a good clinical observation, which will today lead to a larger study and publish the results; But that’s not how medicine worked in the 18th century. “Back then, there were no medical journals,” Boylston says. “Doctors communicate with small dinners and drinking themselves silly.” These meetings, Fissel says, are an important part of the history of smallpox. “Myths can make a beautiful story,” he says. “But an important part of the smallpox story was that medical people began to come together to communicate in a way they hadn’t before.”
Boylston revealed that one such meeting of what was then an informal medical society took place at an inn called The Ship. He also discovered that two men, the Ludlow brothers, were at the meeting; And Edward Jenner, though not at the meeting, was taught to the Ludlow brothers in 1768. Feuster told the meeting his story of farmers who never had smallpox but had cowpox. Boylston believes the brothers are home and tells their young student about Feuster’s findings.
Jenner was only 13 years old when he almost certainly heard about Feuster’s observation. He eventually became a member of the medical society that met on the ship, and records show that he became known as the “little pox carrier” because of his obsession with the subject in members’ discussions. He had almost 30 years to think about cowpox and smallpox before he tested his theory in 1796 by inoculating the young James Phipps.
“The idea that cowpox could prevent smallpox infection came from Fewster’s observations in 1768,” Boylston says. – There was no milk.
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So how did the myth of the milkmaid come about? Then the first and only mention of the dairy story came from Jenner’s friend and first biographer, John Baron, a few years after Jenner’s death. According to Boylston’s research, other doctors criticized Jenner, questioning how he had linked smallpox and immunity to smallpox in the first place. Jenner himself never explained how he developed the theory that led to his 1796 experiment. “After Jenner’s death, her biographer tried to protect Jenner’s reputation,” says Boylston. John Baron probably made up the story of the milkmaid to show how Jenner came up with the idea of a connection between cowpox and smallpox, Boylston says.
The true story is not as entertaining as the folk tale about the beautiful milkmaid, says Boylston, but it represents good science. “I like that Feuster is a very ordinary country doctor. He was a clinical observer. He looked at his patients. He listened to them,” Boylston says.
Undoubtedly, people miss the myth of the dairy. “But we should not lose
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